Earth Day, which is Wednesday, April 22, was first celebrated in 1970 and is credited with starting the environmental movement in the United States. Here are three facts to mark its 50th anniversary.
1. An oil spill led to the creation of Earth Day. On Jan. 28, 1969, an oil well off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA, blew, releasing more than 3 million gallons of oil and killing more than 10,000 birds, dolphins, seals and other marine species. This environmental catastrophe led U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin to propose the creation of Earth Day a year later as a way to raise awareness of environmental issues.
2. More than 20 million people took part in the first Earth Day celebration. April 22 was chosen as the date because it was after most schools’ spring breaks and did not conflict with Easter. Events took place at more than 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 elementary and high schools, and in hundreds of communities across the nation.
3. Earth Day is now a global event. Earth Day went worldwide in 1990 and is now observed in 192 countries and overseen by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. It is considered to be the largest secular holiday in the world and is celebrated by more than 1 billion people each year. To help mark the occasion in 2020, USPS will issue an Earth Day stamp that features a playful painting of the planet and hand-lettered text.